Buttery Crab Casseroles

The simple seasonings in this recipe from the Irish coast, inspired by the luscious buttery crab crumble served at Vaughans Anchor Inn, highlight the crab’s sweetness rather than overpower it. Brown crabs, typical in Ireland’s coastal waters, can be substituted with fresh Dungeness crabs, prized for their high yield—look for them at the fish counter at your local grocery store. The crabmeat mixture yields enough to fill 4 (12-ounce) mini casseroles or 1 (2-quart) baking dish. Serve the buttery crab casseroles with a tossed salad for a complete meal.

Buttery Crab Casseroles
Photo: Victor Protasio
Active Time:
1 hrs 45 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs 30 mins


  • 3 (2-pound) live brown or Dungeness crabs, rinsed

  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted pure Irish butter, divided

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped scallions (from 3 scallions)

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery leaves (from 1 celery stalk)

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, divided

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

  • Pinch of cayenne pepper

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs


  1. Fit a steamer basket inside a large pot. Fill pot with water until water line is just below bottom of steamer basket. Bring to a rapid boil over high. Place crabs in steamer basket. Cover pot, and reduce heat to medium-high; steam crabs 18 minutes. Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with ice water.

  2. Remove steamed crabs from pot, and plunge into ice water; let stand 10 minutes. Working with 1 crab at a time, remove from ice water. Remove crabmeat from shells; transfer crabmeat to a bowl, and discard crab shells. (Crabmeat should yield about 1 pound.)

  3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Melt 1/2 cup butter in a medium skillet over medium. Add scallions and celery leaves; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove mixture from skillet; transfer to a plate. Add lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, white pepper, and cayenne pepper to skillet. Bring to a simmer over medium-high; cook, undisturbed, until slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. Add crabmeat; cook, stirring gently, until warmed through, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Transfer crabmeat mixture to 4 (12-ounce) baking dishes or 1 (2-quart) baking dish; sprinkle with scallion mixture.

  4. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in skillet over medium. Add breadcrumbs and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring often, until breadcrumbs are well coated with butter and slightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over crabmeat mixture.

  5. Transfer baking dishes to preheated oven; bake until crab casseroles just begin to bubble around edges, about 20 minutes. Serve hot with tossed salad.

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